Firms in Moray facing crippling increases in their business rates bills have been urged to claim reliefs and appeal – or risk overpaying and being locked into higher charges.
Already struggling outfits across the north-east were smacked with soaring bills after a revaluation failed to account for the impact of the oil and gas downturn.
The Scottish Government belatedly responded to criticism in February by capping rates increases at 12.5% in the hospitality sector as part of a £600million national scheme.
However, yesterday it was revealed that only 26 of 179 eligible firms in Moray have so far taken up the help – which could be worth around £500,000 to local businesses.
And those who want to dispute their revaluations only have days left to appeal before the September 30 deadline.
John Cowe, chairman of Moray Council’s economic development committee, said: “I’m disappointed there are companies out there who aren’t taking advantage of this – some of the increases have been huge.
“It’s difficult for business owners, they’re busy running their own company and I suppose the tendency is to put this to the bottom of the pile.”
The Scottish Government recently announced that the transitional relief – designed to cushion the impact of large increases in the short term – would be extended into a second year.
Graham Fleming, owner of Lossiemouth’s Beach Bar, has already urged operators to appeal against the changes, which will last for five years, after his bill soared by more than 200%.
A Moray Council spokesman said: “So far, we have made 26 awards . . . and we would certainly encourage more applications from businesses.”
In Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire some £9million remains unclaimed.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson urged people to claim and appeal, saying: “We can only show that there’s something demonstrably broken about the system if we’re able to demonstrate that it’s affected so many people.
A Scottish government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government has committed to around £660million of rates relief this year.
“It is for businesses to apply for relief and for councils to administer it.
“We would encourage all councils to promote rates relief with local businesses to ensure they maximise take up.”